RIZAL Governor Rebecca Ynares on Wednesday added her voice to the growing opposition to a plan by a local cement firm to cut down some 6,500 trees in Angono town to make way for the expansion of its quarrying operation.
In an interview with The Manila Times, Ynares said she had asked both the provincial government and the local government of Angono to block Batong Angono Aggregates Corp. (BAAC) from carrying out the plan.
She said the plan ran counter the goal of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to plant about 1.5 billion trees nationwide.
“I have written to [Angono] Mayor Gerry [Calderon], based on so many queries that we have received, that we will not allow (the felling of trees),” Ynares said.
She instructed Calderon to inspect the proposed quarry site together with other government officials.
She said the government can issue environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) to mining applicants if the proposed quarry area is less than five hectares.
But the Times learned that the BAAC area covers nearly 20 hectares of forest area.
No to mining
Ynares also said she asked the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to meet on Monday and come up with a resolution that will require local governments in Rizal to refuse applications for ECC by any mining company.
“We hope that we can come up with the resolution in about two weeks,” she added.
A group has been formed to oppose the plan of BAAC, a concessionaire of Lafarge Republic Inc. (LRI), to cut the trees.
The Save 6400 Angono Trees Movement released a statement on Wednesday thanking the town’s residents who expressed indignation for the proposal of BAAC.
The group said BAAC’s proposed area for the expansion of its quarry operations—the company’s “north wall,” located in Barangay San Isidro, is the town’s “last remaining forest area.”
The group also “welcomed the decision by Mayor Calderon and LRI officials to observe the ‘status quo’, which was to ‘temporarily suspend the cutting and earth balling of trees’” in the area.
“We trust in you that you will put in mind first the interest and general welfare of the Angono people, and not of the mining company which earns P5 billion annually and which has benefited exponentially by flattening our mountains and mining out our resources for the past 51 years,” the group said.
It also asked the town’s residents to “remain vigilantv . . . as we demand transparency and accountability from our local and provincial officials on BAAC’s request.”
It demanded that public consultation should be held and representation from the citizens should be allowed to review and monitor the status of BAAC’s request.
Meanwhile, Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, told the Times on Wednesday that BAAC’s proposal was merely “kalokohan” (foolishness).
“Transferring one forest to another should not be an issue here,” Bautista said.
He said the real issue was the damage BAAC’s proposal could bring to the environment and to the safety of Angono.
He was referring to BAAC’s Tree Relocation Management Program, which aims to replant 80 percent of the trees inventoried by the company and local government officials within the “noth wall” to other parts of the quarry site.
“It is clear that this will result to massive clearing of vegetation in the affected area, will destroy the environment and endanger residents,” Bautista said.
He said the local government and the DENR can block BAAC’s request for expansion of its quarrying operations.
He said Executive Order 23 passed by Malacañang in 2011 enforces a “moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in primary and secondary forests” in the country.
“The local government should recall the permit and reject the planned expansion of Lafarge,” Bautista said.